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Julie Morgan (Cardiff, North) (Lab): Will my right hon. Friend agree to an early debate on women's participation in politics? Is he aware of the report from the Electoral Commission this week, which shows that women are turned off by the macho style of politics in Westminster, and that they are much more likely to vote and to engage in politics if they have a female MP? Also, the Labour party's policy of having all-women short lists was specifically cited as a way forward.

Mr. Hain: Yes, I am aware of that report. I join my hon. Friend in welcoming the large number of women now being selected by the Labour party in vacant seats. That compares with the dismal record of the Conservatives—and, I am sorry to say, of the Liberal Democrats and other minority parties. We want more women in Parliament, as women represent more than half the population. [Interruption.] Conservative Members want to know why—that is the authentic voice of the old, male chauvinist, traditional Tory party, barking at me from the benches opposite. We want a Parliament that reflects the country. We do not have that at the moment. As my hon. Friend noted, the Electoral Commission report shows that, on the whole, women candidates tend to do better than men, as women—who are disinclined to vote in the current climate—feel a much greater identification with female MPs.

Rev. Martin Smyth (Belfast, South) (UUP): I draw the attention of the Leader of the House to early-day motion 1051, the main sponsors of which are six of his colleagues.

[That this House is shocked by reports from the United Nations of a looming major humanitarian catastrophe in the Darfur region of Sudan where 665,000 people have been internally displaced, 453,000 others have been affected and more than 100,000 refugees have fled to Chad; notes with alarm that the top UN official in the Sudan has described the situation as being comparable to the Rwandan genocide; and calls on the UN Security Council to address the situation urgently.]

What steps are the Government taking to make their views known to the Government of Sudan and through the United Nations to see whether action can be taken? A militia, apparently backed by the National Islamic Front Government, is persecuting Muslims because of their colour.

Mr. Hain: I thank the hon. Gentleman for raising the situation in Darfur, which is indeed dire. The civilian
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population is in a precarious state, and civilian protection is a serious concern. We have committed more than £9.5 million in humanitarian assistance in response to the crisis, and we are providing key personnel to reinforce the United Nations presence. We will continue to monitor the situation to make sure that we avoid the even worse catastrophe that the hon. Gentleman foresees.

Mr. Michael Connarty (Falkirk, East) (Lab): Will my right hon. Friend find time for a debate on the corporate social responsibility of companies such as BP, which announced its largest ever profit last year but which has also announced, with a cavalier attitude, that it is going to dispose of its weaker businesses, which will include the olefins and plastics plant—the company's only one in the UK—at Grangemouth in my constituency? Some 500 workers there rely on the company for their livelihood, and it seems to me that, in spite of all the whitewash in BP's corporate responsibility documents, it forgets that it made its wealth from the people of the United Kingdom and used our assets, particularly in the North sea, to boost its profits for 30 years. Surely we need a debate to try to align the responsibility such companies have to their shareholders with a responsibility to the work force, to UK plc and to the people of Scotland.

Mr. Hain: I am sure that Lord Browne, the chairman of BP, will take careful note of what my hon. Friend has said. Obviously, BP is one of our national champions and one of our most important industries, not least in my hon. Friend's community. It is important that it should continue to enjoy the confidence of its work force and the communities that it serves.

Mr. John Taylor (Solihull) (Con): Will the Leader of the House arrange a debate about residential blight caused by prospective airport development and the necessary compensation schemes for which we wait and which must be brought forward by the airports themselves? Can we have such a debate soon to end uncertainty for those of my constituents who are affected by that blight?

Mr. Hain: I understand the hon. Gentleman's concern, and uncertainty is in no one's interests. The Secretary of State for Transport will want to take careful note of the points raised and to respond to the hon. Gentleman to ensure that his constituents enjoy the certainty to which they are entitled.

Mr. Harry Barnes (North-East Derbyshire) (Lab): Surely we must have a debate on Fallujah, Iraq and the chaos and mayhem there, not so that those of us who opposed the occupation may say "We told you so," but so that we can offer constructive suggestions about the way forward in the difficult circumstances that exist there. One such suggestion would be the greater development of the wider labour and trade union movement in Iraq, which supports neither terrorism nor oppression.

Mr. Hain: I am very much in favour of the greater development of the trade union and labour movement in Iraq. Of course, that was not allowed, and was
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specifically prevented, under Saddam Hussein, who is now, mercifully, not ruling the country in his despotic way. My hon. Friend has many opportunities to raise the situation in Iraq, and I am sure that he will take every one of them.

Bob Russell (Colchester) (LD): A few minutes ago, the Leader of the House drew attention to the importance of a strong, democratic, well established trade union movement to this country's social and economic well-being. I endorse the thrust of his point, but, bearing in mind that a rotten financial institution is terrible for all other financial institutions, does he agree that a rogue trade union, such as ASLEF, also brings the entire trade union movement into disrepute? Will he arrange for the Minister who will be responsible for the good news that he mentioned earlier to tell the House why the trade union movement allows ASLEF to behave as it has under its current executive and former general secretary? Together, they are damaging the good name of all trade unions.

Mr. Hain: ASLEF is an independent trade union, governed by the law and the rules, and, as a member of the Trades Union Congress, it accepts its obligations. All sorts of things are going on in the union at present, but I do not think that they justify the hon. Gentleman's over-the-top question.

Mr. David Chaytor (Bury, North) (Lab): This week, the Prime Minister announced his wish that the G8 would give the highest priority to climate change and terrorism in its discussions next year. In view of the chief scientific adviser's recent remark that climate change is a greater threat to civilisation than terrorism, in view of the Government's energy White Paper's argument that energy efficiency is the key way to reduce our carbon dioxide emissions, and in view of the long-awaited publication this week of the energy efficiency action plan, will my right hon. Friend find time in the very near future for a debate on the contribution of energy efficiency and productivity to combating the threat of climate change?

Mr. Hain: If I could find time for such a debate soon, I would readily do so. I agree that this is one of the central challenges facing the world. Governments such as ours have a proud record in signing up to the Kyoto protocol, leading the way in energy efficiency and pressing for more renewable energy, which will assist with this task, and of protecting the environment in every way. If my hon. Friend applied for a debate and had the opportunity to hold one, it would give us an opportunity to display that record to the whole House.

Mr. Adrian Flook (Taunton) (Con): Tomorrow, the unelected south-west regional assembly meets to choose whether to upgrade the A358 in my constituency or to build a new road across the beautiful black downs. The decision will then be conveyed to the Secretary of State for Transport, putting the ball very much in the Government's court. May we have a debate so that
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those of us who are elected to this place and believe in the A358 option can influence the Government's decision on a matter of vital interest to the west country?

Mr. Hain: The hon. Gentleman has many opportunities to press the Secretary of State on that matter, and I am sure that, in the interests of his constituency, he will take them all. I was intrigued to hear him refer to the unelected south-west regional assembly. Does that mean that he is in favour of an elected one?

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